Thursday, February 26, 2004

La Guardia Baggage Screeners Protesting Workplace Conditions

La Guardia airport baggage screeners have formed the Metropolitan Airport Workers Association and are threatening a class-action suit "in connection with allegations of rampant violations of workers’ rights by management." Health and safety problem are high among the issues:
The poor working conditions alleged by MAWA are blamed mostly on understaffing and unresponsiveness from management toward worker injuries. Out of more than 700 screeners at LaGuardia, 160 got hurt on the job last year, according MAWA’s reports.

“That’s a third of the workforce,” Miguel Shamah, acting vice president of the MAWA said.

He indicated that the majority of injuries to workers are back and shoulder ailments attributed to heavy lifting. A request to provide screeners with Kevlar-laced gloves—which police officers wear for protection—was denied.

Thomas Wilkins, federal security director for the TSA, informed Shamah in a December 2003 letter that the gloves “have been found to offer limited protection against cuts, but not needle sticks.” Wilkins indicated that the TSA was conducting field tests on several different gloves to determine whether they offer protection from cuts and needle sticks.

Shamah, 34, who has worked as a screener at LaGuardia since September 2002, said he is going through a series of blood tests after being punctured while searching through a bag.